OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Give More Power to The People! (Updated 8 Feb - user flow experiment! and referral model)

We crowd fund solar projects so that energy savings can be invested to support broader community aspirations, from creating employment for people recovering from homelessness, through to scholarships for organic farmers. If you have a social mission, we can solar power it. We are creating a hub and spoke network of people spanning the globe, with volunteers on the ground identifying solar projects and community needs and using The People's Solar to finance them from a global community, while tracking and celebrating community development outcomes. (updated visual below with trial infographic, strategy map and business model planning - Huge thank you to Deirdre and the IDEO team!)

Photo of Tosh Szatow
61 61

Written by

(updated 6th Feb with more defined plan and value proposition)

The What:
we have built the web-platform and model to create Solar Power for the People - check out For every dollar donated to a solar project, as much as $4 can be re-invested to support community-based iniatives. The community decides what's important, and it's the community need that drives the fundraising.

The Why: by tying the financial benefits of solar power, to community-based needs, the appeal of clean energy is broadened to include those who are not motivated by environmental goals. This addresses the single largest barrier to clean energy (apathy/unwillingness to pay for environmental gains) and is critical to accelerating uptake of clean energy, particularly in regions of the world where environmental protection is a low priority. As far as we know, this model is unique globally.

Growing Impact: to leverage the attention crowdfunding brings to a cause, we are creating partnerships with clean electricity providers and solar companies in Australia, so that people can win rewards for our projects by purchasing clean energy, or solar power at home. This grows our ecosystem of influence, amplifies the uptake of clean energy, and enhances our revnue model.

What does success look like? Success looks like a massive volume of clean energy projects getting done every day, either directly through our platform, or by inspiration we give others to act. We will achieve this by creating exceptional value for everyone in our ecosystem, from communities doing projects, through to donors (big and small), solar companies in our supply chain, and clean electricity providers.

Our values guide our projects: Our passion is for tackling social justice and environmental challenges with creative, commercially viable solutions. We combine entrprenurial energy with social intelligence to stay agile, disciplined and grounded in our broader purpose.

We focus on crowd funding solar projects that create euality of opportunity, through training, education or simply access to important services. Key markets include schools and education institutions, social and public housing, and regional communities more broadly where social disadvantaged can become entrenched due to low incomes, and/or lack of access to opportunities.

We also place a high value on combining environmental and social outcomes, for example, creating work opportunities in sustainable energy/water/food industries for socially disadvantaged people, 

Strategic partners (update - see visualistion of partner categories)
  • Philanthropic organisations that are seeking to create ongoing support for community-based programs, rather than providing a one-off donation; 
  • Ethical investment funds that will allocate a portion (say 5%) of it’s capital for social return only via our projects; 
  • Government bonds that tie investment to delivery of social outcomes, such as training and employment for marginalised people
Refinement: what we learnt (update 8th Feb)

We have learnt that we need help with communication and systems! But seriously, our background is in energy and projects - the getting it done on the ground bit. With the right people around us that can bring what we do to life, and help us build systems around our projects that mean we get the most out of them, we are really confident we can grow and scale to achieve high impcat. We are learning how to do this bit by bit, and are confident we could really accelerate our learning and growth with the right support. Thank you openIDEO team!!

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

The platform can benefit any community, anywhere in the world. Currently we focus on creating solar projects that help address food security, sustainable food production, and social equity issues. For example, we are working with a farmer to crowd fund a solar project, so that energy savings can be invested in an organic farming scholarship. We also have a project where energy savings will be invested in training and employment creation for people living in social housing. We find people give to our projects because of the broader community benefit, not just because it's solar power. For example, if a village in Africa needed secure funding to help run a school, we could crowd fund an solar/off-grid energy solution, saving them money, so they can invest savings to support the school. In this way, the model can be adapted to community needs anywhere in the world.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

The People's Solar gives people control and autonomy over their energy futures, so they no longer have to rely on governments or businesses to do the right thing, or provide financial support for renewable energy. This accelerates the speed of transition, and takes control away from incumbent interests that may try to slow down the speed of change. By linking the benefits of solar power to broader community needs, a broader base of financial support can be reached, helping to accelerate the transition to renewables. (update: note, we can crowd fund other renewable energy technologies, subject to them being the most appropriate and cost-effective for a given situation, and have projects in our pipeline that include off grid energy systems for remote communities in Australia)

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have already delivered three projects and have shown the model works. We have a growing pipeline of projects in excess of 100kW across Victoria, Australia and would love to scale our model globally. We have found the key to successfully fundraising for projects, is to engage people directly "on the ground", and to leverage social networks. Most people give because they know and trust their money is going to deliver an outcome they value. Some people give as more of a faith based act of generosity, but they are in the minority (we estimate 20% for our projects so far). (Update - we are currently conducting experiments with our revenue model. We are starting to earn revenue through referrals/sales of solar systems to households, with leads generated by our platform. We are also starting to switch people to a clean electricity retailer, to earn extra cash for our projects, and referral fees for us)

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We are open to ideas! Some conversation starters below (update - that you so much to Deirdre for her insightful thoughts and great sketches that have neatly summed up some of our strategic partnership and business model options! - check our visualisation section) (updated - we have also had a go at infographics, and have developed some templates to help us streamline data gathering, so we can measure and report on our impact. Thanks Meena!!) We would love some help with developing some really tight processes around measuring and reporting on the social impact we are having in communities, and ideally integrating that with our web platform so that the data gathering and reporting is seamless. For example, it would be amazing if we could send the people we have done projects with a form to fill out to document the impact of our solar project, with data gathered being represented on our website visually in some way, so that people can see the impact our projects are having in real-time. We would also love some help with identifying and developing the right strategic partnerships globally with NGO’s and philanthropic groups, including those that have relationships “on the ground” with communities that can leverage our model.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • Solar

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dan Whittet

What if communities had a system of "energy credits" for involvement in community supportive projects of any kind? Composting, Street Sweeping, Food Co Op or Awareness projects would be compensated with a card system for energy which could be withdrawn either from a micro grid, "solar power on public buildings for example" and/or vehicle charging stations? You get back what you put in and it pays a benefit to the community in both directions??

View all comments